Saturday, December 19, 2015

More of THOSE Days

I’ll guess that you were feeling relieved after the children’s time that finally THIS week we would have some joyful news instead of all those oppressive prophetic texts. You may even had extra hope after the letter to Thessalonians advice to REJOICE ALWAYS. But then Stephen read the Mark text and it sounds a lot like what we’ve been hearing for two weeks in advent. . More about those days!

Do you know the story of the ‘Boy Who Cried Wolf’?  

Tell it, surely you each know a little part. (or you can WIKI it on your phone.) Aesop’s fable
  • shepherd boy who repeatedly tricks nearby villagers into thinking a wolf is attacking his flock
  • When one actually does appear and the boy again calls for help, 
  • the villagers believe that it is another false alarm and the sheep are eaten by the wolf. [4][5]

Do you think it is blasphemy to think these prophets are crying wolf?
image: Duomo (Grand Duke Cosimo I de' Medici decided to have the dome painted with a representation of The Last Judgment. This enormous work, 3,600 metres² (38 750 ft²) of painted surface, was started in 1568 by Giorgio Vasari and Federico Zuccari and would last till 1579.)
(The other text we could have read has John the Baptist crying out for repentance to people of Galilee. “make way” You remember that story from other advent messages.
But prophets weren’t crying wolf back in the days before the exile when they tried to warn the people. —Babylon came and conquered.
And prophets weren’t crying wolf during the exile when they said, God would return God’s people to their land. —a new ruler CYRUS the Great of Persia conquered the Babylonians and allowed the Jews to return home to Israel.
and What about Jesus’ prophetic voice? 
He is often called, “prophet, priest and king”.
Are we still waiting for his prophecies? (answers)
we just heard: “the sun will become dark, and the moon won’t give its light. The stars will fall from the sky, and the planets and other heavenly bodies will be shaken.” — or did that happen the day of his crucifixion? and is it not his coming again that we await?

Prophets aren’t the bad guys…. they are God’s guys. (and they are not all guys at that as we leaned playing the prophet memory game this morning.) 

ASK: What do prophets tell us? (variety)
Prophets tell us about “God’s ..preference for protecting and lifting up the lowly, the suffering, and the oppressed.” 
AND when enough time has gone by without justice for ALL. . . (and when God says ALL, God really means ALL, no exceptions allowed)  OR
When too much time has gone by, prophets are sent to warn people about an END…to injustice. 
Sometimes even THE END. 

“Prophets say what no one wants to hear, what no one wants to believe.” Scholar Deborah Black wrote, “They point in directions that no one wants to look. They hear God -when everybody else has concluded God is silent.” 
They see God where nobody else would guess God is present, 
they FEEL GOD.”
(we said in SS) 
“They dream God’s dreams and utter wake-up calls, 
they hope God’s hopes and announce a new future; 
they will God’s will and live it against all odds.. 
They sing God’s song and sometimes interrupt the program with a change of tune.” Which is what we heard in Zephaniah: 
“Don’t fear, Zion.
Don’t let your hands fall.
 The LORD your God is in your midst"

Isn’t THIS the good news, for God’s people? 
IT is GOOD NEWS that oppression, killing, injustice WILL come to an end.
(wouldn’t we like to hear such good news tomorrow at the Vigil that remembers the Sandy Hook killings?)
The reason we sometimes question whether the prophets speak good news—- is we know that we are implicated in the IN-justice. 
(why it’s hard to hear their words)
But God has also sent people to tell us FEAR NOT.

image - “FEAR NOT - tidings of Good News to all people”
What did the angel Gabriel say to Mary before announcing the news?
“do not be afraid"
What was the first thing the angels told the shepherds the night they announced Jesus’ birth?
“Fear Not!” 
“‘Do not fear’ is repeated over and over again (WHY?) —-because human beings are afraid of many things.” 

So there is good news in all these prophetic words and I am sure that has been your Advent question all month. What IS the Good News? 
but this is it, it begins with Do not fear and moves to Jesus’ words:
  • we don’t and won’t know the day or hour…so act like it will be tomorrow
The other Good News is ALSO found the words of Zephaniah heard today, in fact he interrupts his prophecy of judgment to tell us 
  • God SINGS over us. 
  • God rejoices in us. 
God may have high expectations for God’s people, certainly,  but God also accompanies us on our journeys helping us - when we ask. 

How then shall we live? How shall we live as we wait?
(how live if God is rejoicing over you? how live if Christ is coming again tomorrow? how live everyday and ANY day?)
This is the question that John’s hearers asked.  As did many people who heard and actually listened to the prophetic word over time. —- 

The Thessalonians letter holds our answer - 
We live REJOICING. Rejoice always!

 begin conclusion
REJOICE! God is looking over your shoulder. ….
REJOICE! you are not alone.
God right beside us —-even as we send off those bills and hope there is enough left for gas this week.

REJOICE! God is right beside us as we make choices; 
as we choose the cable show, surf the internet, hang out with friends, talk to co-workers.
God is even looking over our shoulder as we decide what to pledge and whether to volunteer. 

REJOICE! God with us as we vote, as we peacefully protest, 
God is WITH US influencing the actions of our church and world.
Every day, in MANY ways, (sometimes too slow and sometime incredibly fast)—-God is transforming us and society with us to make us ready for when Christ comes again.

image - God With Us
This is GOOD NEWS!
IS it not a joy to know that God IS with us - changing us?
Even IF and when the end comes, God IS with us.
It is the message shared thru 
   all the Bible stories; 
in the prophetic word, 
in the coming of Jesus, … [all these witnesses] tell us about God’s Vision for humanity, God’s plan to bring all God’s people together again…God’s vision for God’s alternative future called the Kingdom of God.

It is GOOD NEWS because “God’s presence among the people is animating, [in that] God rejoices with them, renews them, and exalts over them.” wrote one scholar, Jennifer Ayers. 
“God frees and strengthens the people by being present among them, such that their hands should not ‘grow weak’
Zephaniah assures us that God also comes to humanity in the community of faith. (like we experience here this morning) 

God’s presence heals, enlivens, and challenges humanity to LEAN into God’s promises for an alternative future.”

Today’s message IS GOOD NEWS, its the reason for the Pink Candle message of JOY!
the message that Zephaniah interrupts dire predictions to tell us.
“The future will be different from the present, 
and from the future that HAD been foreseen.
DO NOT FEAR the LORD your God is in your midst.
the end

Let us interrupt our lives to REJOICE this week for the LORD our God is in our midst.

Jump up
Original version from myth folklore

 the decree of Cyrus, the ruler of the Persian empire that had conquered the region and granted the Jews the right to worship their God in Jerusalem, wiki -
Jennifer Ryan Ayer Feasting Advent Companion (Louis:WJK,2014)56
Deborah Black Feasting Advent Companion - pastoral (Louis:WJK,2014)56-57
Jennifer Ryan Ayer Feasting Advent Companion (Louis:WJK,2014)56
 Deborah Black - pastoral Feasting Advent Companion (Louis:WJK,2014)57

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